Military

Oh, Yeah… This Thing.

Here’s the deal. Keeping track of current events is a depressing thing to do. Rarely do things seem to be getting much better, and a realist recognizes that “It’s always darkest before the dawn” is the sort of wishful thinking that invites false hope which invites even more despair once expectations inevitably collapse.

Bearing all of that is made harder when personal issues intervene. I’m only just now recovering from a paralyzing emotional shitstorm that began shortly after my last article. And that’s the most you’ll be hearing about that.

(“You” of course being my vast audience of four or five people.)

I’ve long since lost the motivation to complete my last series, or what was intended to be a series, but fuck it, let’s power through.


Step One: Draw Down (Pt 2)

We’re still talking about reorganizing the US military, but I’m going to go down a little side street to talk about gun control. It’s relevant, trust me.

Deaths from gun crime are a major problem in the U.S. Our gun homicide rate hovers around the company of countries generally described as “developing,” or “third world.” Graphs of the US gun homicide rate compared to other Western countries generally look like… well, like this. Gun ownership rates between the US and other developed countries are pretty similar, if less dramatic.

But hang on a second. Look at these two again, side by side.

DeathOwnership

The two western countries closest to the US in terms of gun ownership are Finland and Switzerland, yet despite having around 50% of our gun ownership rate, they have less than 20% of our homicide rate. Why do you think that is?

Finland and Switzerland have something in common which is distinct from the United States: compulsory military service.

You see, all that gun control stuff I said was just a dirty bait-and-switch! I’m actually all for the Second Amendment. I think the intent behind it when the Bill of Rights was established is as relevant today as it was in 1789. Jefferson probably didn’t say

“When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.” – Definitely not Thomas Jefferson

However, he most certainly did co-lead a violent resistance movement that used guns to overthrow the enforcement mechanisms of an authoritarian government.

Consider that Americans are being extra-judicially executed by the drones and police which allegedly protect us. Consider that the US government uses torture, pervasive and unqualified spying, and has a history of engaging in other incredibly disturbing practices. We have every reason to be afraid of our government, and every right to defend ourselves from it. Yet, as corporate influence marginalizes the power of popular sovereignty and gun ban laws attempt to rob Americans of the most efficient means of protecting themselves from hostility, there is less and less that the so-called “common” American can do to keep a comfortable buffer between themselves and the possibility of officially-sanctioned abuse.

I’m not arguing that there’s a vast IlluminatiJewishLizard-conspiracy to disarm us so that the New World Order can go into effect. However, if in twenty years US officials are encouraged to persecute pro-eco or anti-corporate activist “terrorists” by monopolistic corporations upon whom they depend financially, and the risk of doing so is completely negated by said activists’ inability to defend themselves physically or monetarily, what exactly is going to deter them from acting on that encouragement?

An armed populace is a pretty good deterrent against those kinds of shenanigans happening willy-nilly.

(Before you call me crazy, keep in mind that in 1995 if you said the US government was going to kill US citizens with hellfire rockets fired by robots while monitoring their communications with a technological capability that puts 1984 to shame, you would have been called crazy, too.)

However, what is definitely crazy is allowing anyone to have a gun with no training or background checks and expecting everything to be hunky-dory. That brings us back to Switzerland and Finland.

I would hypothesize, and would very much like to find a study which disputes or corroborates, that a citizen who is well-trained in the proper use and safety of a firearm is dramatically less likely to abuse that firearm. Overwhelmingly, urban centers are the source of the highest gun crime in the US, where access to guns is easy (due to the high national per capita rate) and exposure to traditional American gun culture (usually recognized more in rural communities) is low. However, we do know suicide with firearms is rising in rural areas now, and decreasing in urban ones. I’ll get back to that later.

Access to guns will never be resolved, especially in the South, which has a notoriously porous border with a country where armed drug gangs have territorial command. We can solve the training problem, though, by mandating compulsory military service for every American citizen (men and women, excepting conscientious objectors and the demonstrably unfit), via the re-institution of local militias, which could be mobilized only by the federal government.

How would we handle that? Well, remember the couple hundred thousand military personnel from my last post forever ago? Think of it now as a 450,000-strong federal militia training corps.

The military would work full time training militias, while also regulating federal standards of fitness, marksmanship, and equipment use and maintenance. Outside of those minimal regulations, militias would regulate themselves according to their financial means and community, strengthening their local identity. This would ensure an impressive statistical level of readiness for national defense, but also an incomparable moral one as well. In the unlikely event that the United States is attacked, the invaders will be facing an army which is not only a huge percentage of the population that has been in reserve for years, but will also be directly defending the territory it has been training in, and likely lived in, for much of its members’ lives. That’s a pretty daunting prospect.

Also, since mandatory military service would funnel most of the population through a process of mental and physical health evaluation, it would provide a broad opportunity for physicians to identify and diagnose key mental health problems that lead to suicide and other kinds of gun death, allowing for early, preventative treatments that might otherwise never be confronted.

Finally, since the federal military would be entirely devoted to training militias, if the government wanted to, say invade Iraq, it would have to conscript the only available forces, which would be the militias. Since militias would be most loyal to their locality, and established and employed at those locations, it’s unlikely they would be very motivated to be uprooted from their lives and deployed elsewhere. Additionally, since only limited numbers would normally be required for deployment, many militias would not be tapped for conscription, putting the government in the unenviable position of deciding which militias to single out. You can imagine the outrage such an incident would cause.

Basically, before the government made any foreign commitments it would have to make a really, really strong case for it, and need to enjoy popular support for a long time.

So in conclusion, re-instituting militias might, as far as I can tell:

  • Reduce gun homicides to rates more comparable to other Western countries with similar gun ownership rates and compulsory military service, which would mean a potential reduction of around 80%.
  • Increase the readiness of the national defense by about fifty-four times (going by current active and reserve personnel numbers).
  • Increase the likelihood of detecting mental and physical health issues among people who might otherwise go undiagnosed
  • Increase the potential morale of defense forces via natural, personal investment in their locality
  • Decrease the likelihood of costly adventures in foreign countries

There are a couple of issues I can foresee. One is funding. However, if Americans are predominantly allowed to use the firearms many of them already have, and perhaps given incentives to donate or share them with other militia members, we will be looking at significantly low costs. Additionally, existing military equipment, outnumbering a reduced military force, could simply be proportionally redistributed to militias which are trained to use it. Local selection processes could funnel members into required roles.

As for identifying mental health problems, that’s a moot point if there is no effective apparatus for treating those problems. That’s my next topic.

Step One: Draw Down (Pt 1)

Putting it simply, we need to reduce the size and cost of the military. However, the mere suggestion of a draw-down is almost guaranteed to be balked at in this country. If you remember early last year when SecDef Hagel announced personnel cuts for the Army (keeping in mind that we also have a Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, and Air Force), you may also remember the ensuing outcry. The Army is an interesting target for historical comparisons, because unlike personnel in the Navy and Air Force, the infantryman’s role has remained largely unchanged since WWII. But there’s a quote about the matter that always bothered me. There are a number of reasons why, but the primary one is that it misrepresents, and deliberately, a number of things.


That would make [the Army] the smallest since just before the U.S. entered World War II.


Ok, first of all: before it entered World War II, America had a draft. It was the first and last peacetime draft in American history, and authorized the conscription of any males between 21 and 35, up to just under a million troops. In the preceding decade, the United States was not ignorant to the threat of war rising both from Europe and Japan, and the 400,000 Army personnel authorized between 1939 and 1940 before that draft were a direct response to that threat. Even in the midst of rising conflict until that point, however, the regular Army capped out at around 280,000 troops.


The quote is deceptive for an additional reason. Up to and during WWII, the US Army did not use military contractors.


Contractors generally serve in logistical and auxiliary roles for the military. They do laundry, food production, construction, security, intelligence, and even foreign training. The estimated ratio of deployed personnel to contractors ranges from 10 to 1 to 2 to 1, but the thing to remember is that everything contractors do now was once done by regular military forces.


Those 280,000 Army troops authorized before WWII included not just the roles soldiers perform today, but every element of the logistical chain of the military, including everything that the billion-dollar industry of defense contracting does now. What is characterized as essential forces, in numbers, of the US Army does not include the thousands of contractors in use. Yet, a few hundred thousand soldiers prior to WWII was deemed enough, even including the requirement for such auxiliary services among the standing military.


What this means is that, while Spain was being bombed by the Luftwaffe and Japan was invading Manchuria, and even while Germany was invading and annexing its neighbors, the US Army and its entire chain of logistical and other support networks (which included the Army Air force, as there was no Air Force beforehand) stood at 280,000.


There are a number of factors that mitigate this number. The population of the United States during that period was less than half of what it is now. Technology at the time did not permit for, let alone require, investment in weapons and vehicles that became essential later in the war, nor those that have been developed since (like helicopters). However, technology has allowed for cheaper or even automated solutions to old problems, and the geographic borders of the United States have remained largely the same. 280,000 soldiers, called to action in an emergency, would still have to defend the same surface area today as they would have then.


One of the keys to the viability of that is the proportionality of warfare, specifically in the engagement of defense. In tactical terms, and especially in the matter of intercontinental warfare, it is generally accepted that an attacker must have numerical superiority over defenders of a holding or defensive position, presuming the defenders use the geography or other infrastructure to their advantage. The ideal, however, is 5 attackers to every defender. This means that even with only 280,000 troops, the US Army could have viably opposed an invading force of 1.5 million and had a reasonable chance of holding them off. Even then, the standing army of 280,000 was never intended to be the sole armed force in the event of war, and the Protective Mobilization Plan in effect during that time accounted for the rapid organization of a 2,000,000-man Army if it were necessary. The 10-million-strong army ideal for taking and holding the United States in the event of the Plan being acted upon simply wasn’t available.


It’s ironic that we call our defense budget a “defense” budget when it predominantly employs, trains, and equips soldiers, sailors, and airmen in numbers far above what is actually necessary for a peacetime standing army dedicated to domestic defense. Including the hundreds of thousands of defense contractors that our defense budget employs, total ground forces alone total closer to around 900,000 personnel, or early WWII draft levels.


But let’s examine the 440,000 number from Hagel again. It does not include the over 500,000 members of the reserves and National Guard. However, included in that number is over 60,000 Army personnel stationed abroad, not including those in Afghanistan or Iraq. Even including the personnel still engaged in Desert Storm II, we’re looking at an effective domestic defense force of 380,000. That’s still 100,000 more than what was deemed necessary in the late 30’s during an approaching world war.


Yet, there is no sign of the immediate threat of WWIII breaking out. It is not just out of military dominance that the threat of invasion is tiny, but because our primary military rivals are also simultaneously our close economic allies. It would require a tremendous global political upheaval before Russia or China even contemplated attacking the United states. 280,000, let alone 380,000, is a wartime footing approaching a stance towards national defense in the event of an immediate war, but there is absolutely no serious threat of invasion. If a force this size, plus our thousands of contractors, is not necessary for defense, then what sort of force do we have? Well, obviously it’s an attack force, an imperial force. The United States military resembles an imperial military.


This arrangement is necessary to maintain the US’s global position as top-dog: politically, economically, and of course militarily. Foreign bases operated by volunteer, career military men and women, in addition to prolific use of contractors, or mercenaries, is the bread and butter of an empire. But what has being an empire gained us?

We have cheap access to resources and goods. While these things may seem nice, they are in fact a symptom of the US’s dependence on a consumer economy. A consumer economy is not sustainable over a long-term period, and it’s a primary factor in our present economic situation, but we’ll get to that later.


The bottom line is that what we love about our huge military is also what’s likely to lead to our country’s downfall. Factoring into that the tremendous amount of waste in the defense budget burdened upon our national debt and our still struggling economic climate, we simply can’t afford to maintain the military we have. Given the domestic situation in regards to dwindling rights to privacy and protections from law enforcement, let alone unjust law, and rampant political and economic dysfunction, we have no business spending so much money and manpower on a force that exists largely to project our waning power onto the rest of the world. We need to tighten the belt and get back to basics.


During the 30’s, one of the core concerns of the government was maintaining at least 100,000 Army officers for the purpose of training a raised army in the event of war. 100,000 is two-thirds of the entire invasion force of the Normandy landings on D-Day, and seems more than adequate as an emergency reaction force, but accounting for population growth it would be wiser to double it to 200,000. What I propose is maintaining 200,000 trained personnel for the Army, 200,000 for the Navy and Marines, and 50,000 for the Air Force while leaving the Coast Guard untouched. That would put the entire armed forces under the umbrella of a number currently proposed for the Army alone, and would cut budget costs on personnel by three quarters. Eliminating contractors from the equation and proportionally decreasing spending on component materials and technologies.


And in the event of a war or impending invasion, where immediate national defense is urgent, who would make up the rest of the armed forces? It might be argued that less than half a million troops might be a tempting target to, say, China, with over 2.2 million active duty personnel. The answer, I think, is compulsory military service. With 120,000 million men and women fit for military service, the United States is uniquely poised to defend itself if the citizenry should ever need to take up arms.


But more on that next update.